MUSCAT: A new species of dragonet fish, named Callionymus omanensis after being found in Oman, has been described in detail in an international scientific journal this year after extensive morphological studies.

The species is considered to be extremely rare due to its steep slope habitat at a depth of 900m and extremely restricted distribution ranges.

Named after Oman on the basis of a single male specimen collected in a trawl from 500m depth off Salalah, the new species comes under the family callionymidae and is characterised within the subgenus Bathycallionymus.

“As the species is apparently extremely rare, and very difficult to collect, it has been described here on the basis of a single specimen, bringing the total number of species known in the subgenus to 20,” said Ronald Fricke, a German scientist, who along with Laith Abdul Jalil Jawad and Juma al Maamari, published the scientific paper in the Journal of Fish Biology this August.

“Several species of the group are known by a single specimen only, which is also true for the one found in Oman,” said Fricke.

Juma al Maamari, who is an expert at the Marine Sciences and Fisheries Centre, told Muscat Daily that the fish was found during the Arabian Sea Survey conducted in 2007 and has now been described after extensive morphological studies.

“Since 2007 we have recorded more than 70 new species of which 41 have been from the Arabian Sea,” said Maamari.

He added that till now only four of the total 189 known species of the callionymidae family were documented in Oman. The number has reached five with the newly found species.

Interestingly, under the family another species was documented in Oman in 1905 by Charles Regan and named Callionymus muscatensis. C Muscatensis dragonet is found in the Sea of Oman off the coast of Muscat, and is locally known as Shas.

According to Fricke, most species of the subgenus Bathycallionymus have narrow, restricted distribution ranges. They live on deeper, soft bottoms on the continental slope or on seamounts; they bury in the substratum, usually only leaving the eyes visible.

Callionymids typically occur in harem groups, with one male controlling a larger home range living together with several females. Spawning usually takes place around dusk; the courting pair ascends and releases the eggs well above the seabed. A complex courtship behaviour includes spreading of the first dorsal fin or flashing blue ‘lights’ (iridescent blue spots). The new species is characterised as having a small branchial opening, a short head, large eyes and fan shaped fins and tail.